Interior sanctuary of St. Matthew Lutheran Church. Courtesy of Jim Harle.

By Georgine Wallace 

When the new St. Matthew Lutheran Church opened on January 19, 2019, the pastor and congregation were excited about the possibilities to serve the Southwest Community after an eleven-year absence from the neighborhood, as the previous structure was demolished in 2008. St. Matthew formed a sister church relationship with First Trinity Lutheran Church at 501 Fourth Street NW. The two congregations share staff, planning for worship, and a mission. St Matthew’s beautiful interior and the smell of the coffee in the Sacred Grounds coffee shop were instant neighborhood attractions. Then, just 14 months after its opening, the church closed again due to the pandemic. The active reservations for the Fellowship Hall in the lower level were cancelled. A year into the pandemic, beloved long-time pastor Philip Huber retired. The future seemed uncertain to many in the congregation. 

However, Church Council President Edna Hicks is the personification of the quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, “A woman is like a teabag. You never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.” Hicks and the St. Matthew’s Council led the congregation through the pandemic and several pastoral changes over the last two years. Due to their creativity, hard work and resolve, the church is on a better path. Along the way, the Council had to make tough decisions, such as closing the coffee shop and selling the equipment. 

The space once used by the coffee shop now serves a special purpose. Every Monday, SWBID ambassadors use the space to create 150 bags of produce for families in need in Southwest. The produce arrives in large boxes unassembled. The BID bundles each bag and transports them to designated areas for distribution. 

Council members would like to use the former coffee shop area to provide additional services to the community. Church Council Vice President Ardith Harle would like to begin a homework assistance program for neighborhood children. She also plans to install a Little Free Library outside the building near the M Street SW entrance. 

St. Matthew offers the use of its rooms to charitable organizations at a reduced or no cost. The large Fellowship Hall which holds over 100 people is open to large groups or special events at a reasonable fee. To inquire about reservations, email office@FirstTrinityStMatthew.org

Services are offered in-person every Sunday at 9:00 a.m. A hybrid option is available at 10:30 with First Trinity. Additional details about St. Matthew can be found at https://firsttrinitystmatthew.org/im-new/st-matthew/

Note: St. Matthew is the place of worship for the author.

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